Since November 6, 1986, all employers in the U.S. have been required by federal law to maintain Form I-9 for each employee, verifying the employee’s identity and ability to work in the U.S. Employers are obligated to review original documents of identity and authorization when completing Form I-9. At the same time, employers are prohibited from discriminating against new hires or applicants by insisting that only certain documents be used to establish identity and authorization, or by refusing to hire anyone other than a U.S. citizen. Employers must have the same procedures for all employees, regardless of nationality or citizenship.
Due to the importance of I-9 compliance, it is recommended that employers conduct their own I-9 audit annually. While an I-9 Self Audit is not mandated by law, many organizations use the I-9 self-audit as a best practice to help manage I-9 compliance. The purpose is to find I-9s that are incomplete, missing or have unresolved issues. With just 3 days’ notice before a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inspection, it is advised companies correct all issues by conducting a self-audit.
Employers should consider the following list of requirements as the Form I-9 is completed:
Section 1 must be completed on or before the date of hire;
Section 2 must be completed, signed, and dated by a company representative on or before the end of the employee’s third day of employment;
The employee must present either:
a List A document, which provides proof of both identity and eligibility to work, or
a List B document, which provides proof of identity and a List C document, which provides proof of eligibility to work;
The company representative may not suggest which documents should be presented. Instead, the representative only may provide the list of alternatives;
The company representative must review the documents presented and complete each relevant line in Section 2;
If an employee’s work authorization must be re-verified, Section 3 must be completed, not a new Form I-9 completed (unless Section 3 has already been completed, then Section 3 on a new I-9 should be completed, with the individual’s name written in Section 1 and the two forms should be kept together);
If corrections are necessary, the employee should make corrections in Section 1 and the employer should make corrections in Sections 2 and 3, by crossing out the incorrect information, adding the correct information, and initialing and dating the change. An incorrect form should not be destroyed and incorrect information should not “whited out”;
All I-9s should be kept until the later of (a) 3 years after the date of hire; or (b) 1 year after date of termination, whichever is later.
The employer must decide whether it will copy the employee’s verification documents. The employer is authorized, but not required, to keep copies of the verification documents. If copies are kept with the Form I-9, it creates a paper trail for the employer. That paper trail could establish the employer’s efforts at good faith compliance.
An audit of a company’s Forms I-9 should consist of verification of the following:
All of the employees currently on the company’s payroll have a Form I-9 on file;
All terminated employees who are required to have a Form I-9 on file do;
Forms I-9 on file are properly completed;
Correction of all incorrect Forms I-9 that are capable of being corrected;
Completion of an audit form document that identifies all of the fixed errors;
Review of current policies and procedures to reduce future errors.
To assist employers with understanding compliance as it relates to the Form I-9, employers can refer to the USCIS Handbook for Employers as well as looking on the USCIS’ website in the section titled I-9 Central, which provides additional information on the entire I-9 process.
Contact PMP if you have any questions regarding any I-9 issues that your company may uncover during an I-9 self-audit.